15 October 2010

Water, water everywhere

I'm in Nelson again, and this time had a chance to look around a bit (more information soon). But today is Blog Action Day and this year's theme is water.

Yesterday we went to Te Waikoropupu Springs, the world's largest freshwater spring. Over 14,000 litres of water wells up in the spring every second, and the water is the clearest fresh water in the world. Apparently only the water under the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica is clearer! The spring itself is really deep but have never been accurately measured. The water is so clear that it's incredibly hard to tell how deep it is, and because it's tapu (holy/sacred/forbidden) the water cannot be touched, swum in or drunk without permission. I found this really hard: I have never wanted to try the taste of water more than from that spring!

Waikoropupu Springs (photo copyright and for sale from Omega Photography)

It is incredibly beautiful: you can see the water bubbling up and the huge lake-like pool humps itself up in places as the water wells up. There's one corner called the "Dancing Sands", where the silver-white sands bubble up and dance in the water.

What I found interesting was the feel of this place. I have never really understood the Maori concept of tapu before. I have never felt it and never felt as though it had any real relevance for me - I have respected the tapu because it was culturally appropriate, but that was all. But yesterday, I felt the tapu. I have been in churches and sensed the atmosphere of prayer and praise, of silence and peace. I have been in Buddhist temples and felt the emptying of self. I have been in monasteries where the silence is like a blanket of presence.

This place was different. It was primal. It was a very female place: the water bubbling up was like the water of life. It was beautiful, it was powerful, and it was brooding. Under the gorgeous Nelson sunshine, it was calm and quiet, but I would not want to be there alone at night, particularly in the dark of the moon. It had a primeval power I have never experienced before, and although I loved the stunning beauty of the spring, it was the beauty of a pouncing lion or a charging elephant, the power of a roaring forest fire. It was truly lovely, and absolutely dangerous, and a place to be respected. A place to be thankful for. A reminder of the power, and wonder, and gift of water to us.

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